It seems to be a no-brainer that rapport building with customers is crucial for getting sales, however building rapport is a skill that many sales professionals struggle to master. But the reasons for doing so go well beyond any one sale or business engagement.
3 Reasons Rapport Building is Essential in Sales
The many reasons relationship and rapport building are essential include the following:
1) Rapport building is a critical step for any sales professional in earning the right to ask tough business questions in meetings and presentations. It is both difficult and awkward to ask tough questions if you haven’t earned the right to do so, and it’s hard to earn the right without some form of a relationship with the customer.
2) Consultative selling requires sales professionals to ask good, even penetrating, questions, and without the firm basis of an established relationship, these questions will never fly. If the customer thinks you’re asking questions just to get what you need to make a sale, it will be a short conversation indeed.
3) Rapport building is really about connecting. It’s about establishing a relationship. And the reason we, as sales professionals, do it is to set the stage for collaboration. We want to demonstrate our interest in win-win solutions, not win-lose. To do that, we have to empathize, show support, and acknowledge appropriately.
Rapport Building Helps You Earn the Right to Ask Questions
Think of a personal relationship and how the connection you have earns you the right to ask tough questions. For me, there are questions I can ask my wife that I could never ask anyone else because of the level of our relationship. With anyone, it is the level of relationship that earns you the right, whether it’s to joke around with them, ask difficult questions, or presume something of them.
What a customer won’t say to you but is immediately turned off by is if you are presumptive about asking questions and drilling down if rapport has not been established first. The message you send is “It’s all about me. I want to make a sale quickly, and as soon as I do, I’m out of here.” You may well be out of there quickly, but probably not with the sale.
Making Human Connections in a Digital World
I have a theory that in today’s digital age, with so many people facing so much screen time, customers are generally looking for people who will actually listen to them and consider their needs as the basis for establishing business relationships. Think of all the people who post about their lives on Facebook and Twitter. Doesn’t that speak volumes about the need for community?
Let Your Clients Know You’re Listening
If you, as a sales professional, open sales calls by letting customers know you are listening and interested in them as people — if your actions convey that you think their lives are important and what they do is important — you will be well ahead in building rapport and creating trust. You will be that rare sales professional who truly listens and hears, treating prospects and customers as individuals. This will differentiate you from other sales professionals and, frankly, from most other people in their sphere of influence.
People have a basic need to be listened to, and if you build your relationships on attentive listening skills and connecting with customers, you will be well ahead. Simply put, people do business with people they like. More importantly, they do business with people they trust.